Updated: Apr 19, 2021
"No one knows your darkness like your own Shadow."
Our Horror Queen is in the chat!
She is ready to dish on all the gore and spooks her genre has to offer readers. She is a two-time horror author with a Young Adult and an Adult horror book under her belt. She is well-known in the writing community as a Vincent Price and Stephen King fangirl.
Ringing any bells?
Haley Newlin, the author of Not Another Sarah Halls, is back at it with an Adult Horror, Take Your Turn, Teddy that is sure to give you murderess nightmares.
Emily: What can readers expect from Take Your Turn, Teddy that they may have not gotten to see in Not Another Sarah Halls? Why is Take Your Turn, Teddy your Everest?
Haley: Take Your Turn, Teddy is my Everest because of how personal the story really is. Creating Teddy's character meant facing a lot of my own trauma. While I'm thankful for the experience and believe it changed my life, it was hard as hell. It was really the start of my steps toward recovery.
From the very beginning, in her Author's Note, Newlin creates a safe space for her readers. That may seem odd coming from a horror book, but with her writing the concept just makes sense. She is so vulnerable and raw with her connection to her audience and genre.
I love how open and natural Newlin is with her readers. She is completely down to earth about her mental health struggles. She shows that even in horror human emotions exist. She also shows her readers how to manage and fight those battles.
E: How did Not Another Sarah Halls and Take Your Turn, Teddy change your perception of mental health and how you want people to view that aspect in horror?
H: Not Another Sarah Halls is more of a feel-good story, while Take Your Turn, Teddy is more of a cautionary tale.
In writing Not Another Sarah Halls, I was still getting to know my own mental illness struggles. At this phase, all I really had was the experience and a singular word - anxiety.
In writing Take Your Turn, Teddy I had so much more. I had the lowest points of my life, the journey of digging up trauma, dissecting it. It was hell bringing these things back from the grave, suppressed memories, feelings I had always kept locked away.
But, more than anyone else, Teddy taught me that if we don't face our trauma, name it, know it, we become entombed by it.
The horror genre allowed me to build a physical manifestation of those whispers in my mind, the trauma trying to keep my head underwater, and above all, show how cunning it can really be.
E: Anxiety and Depression play a big role in NASH, how does this play into Teddy's fears and emotions in TYTT? Do you consider the shadow to be a manifestation of our fears, anxiety, and depression if so tell me why?
H: The Shadow is a manifestation of our fears, insecurities, but mostly, our vulnerabilities which for Teddy stems from unresolved trauma.
The Shadow is all about teaching Teddy to see betrayal from others, disappointment, and isolation as his constant - what he can expect in people. We know that's not really Teddy's voice, but it fills his head until he thinks of it as his own or a close friend.
Teddy is so complex for a ten-year-old main character. The reader is learning life lessons along with him. We are able to be right in his head and feelings in certain situations.
He is so understanding of his mom's emotions and struggles. He doesn't quite understand the source of her pain but he understands enough to be able to comfort her.
From showing the father-son relationship in chapter one as they were close at some point but a wedge sends Teddy's mind into questioning what he thinks of his dad. To showing the mom-son relationship as warm and comforting. They have a musical bond that is the gateway to helping them feel better and at ease while they are spending time together. This creates an off-balance family dynamitic, yet it works for the fallout of Teddy. Due to his struggles, readers can see his motives for what he later becomes in his story. Newlin sets up a grand background story that mirrors those of famous serial killers real and fiction.
E: Teddy is incredibly complex for a ten-year-old, how did you write and flesh out his character? How did your serial killer knowledge help you round out your story details?
H: Teddy's childhood character wasn't too hard to create. Growing up, I read every book I could get my hands on. In some ways, I guess that would've made me think about things in a way a kid a little older than me might. Also, I think trauma has a way of making you grow up.
When I first wrote Teddy's introduction scene, I was in a graduate English class. I had a peer say he feels too mature for his age. So, I tweaked the internal dialogue a bit, but I knew that meant I was on the right path.
Now, serial killer Teddy was a different story. I've logged hundreds, literally, of hours studying serial killers - particularly their psychology. It was so important to me that how Teddy killed and how the shadow took advantage of him was fitting to his struggle with trauma, confusion of his parents, and run-ins with abuse of someone he loves.
So, I made a sort of cocktail from Ted Bundy and Ed Gein's childhood trauma and psychology. You can sort of note which parts as Teddy doesn't have the initial bloodlust that Bundy is famous for - that fades in and out later on.
E: During PART ONE, Teddy meets and plays with the Shadow. Describe their relationship over the course of the book. What kind of arch did their relationship go through and what message do you want to convey to your readers through their relationship?
H: In the same way, in our low moments, we begin to trust the negative thoughts in our head as our own voice; Teddy does with the shadow.
He trusts these ideas of what it takes to survive, what it takes to never be alone, and for the shadow, that ultimately means killing.
Music is a key factor in my own writing, therefore I love how Newlin plugs in 1970s songs and earlier into Teddy's life. The Beatles, for instance, is his music of choice for comfort and reassurance that everything is going to be okay. Or that is what he hopes.
E: I know you love music, old-time music. What music inspired you for your 1970s setting and what are some songs that made it into the book?
H: I love, love questions like this. Tim Burton's film Dark Shadows inspired the 1970s setting of Take Your Turn, Teddy. There's a song in the opening, Nights in White Satin by the Moody Blues (actually recorded in '67) that just felt so comforting to me. The scene had this somber sort of fog, and I immediately thought about writing a story in that era.
It's sort of funny because a lot of the music mentioned through the book, like The Beatles "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," Peter, Paul, and Mary's "Puff the Magic Dragon," and the Mamas and the Papas "Dream a Little Dream of Me," actually came from the 60s.
It's sort of how songs from the early 2000s sort of shape what's around today. I love tracking that influence and progression in music.
Nothing has been normal for Teddy, not since discovering the harsh identity of the monster he had been living with his whole life—his own father. Teddy and his mother leave that behind to start over in a small Indiana township.